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Manpower hunts loan defaulters

Ntsebeng Motsoeli


MASERU — All graduates who have not paid back the government grants they received for their university and tertiary education could face legal action.

Drop-outs who received bursaries from the National Manpower Development Secretariat (NMDS) will not be spared as well.

The defaulting beneficiaries could also be blacklisted, which means they will not be able to get loans or purchase on credit anywhere in the world.

These are part of a raft of measures the NMDS — the government department that administers education bursaries — says it will take in an attempt to recover millions of maloti loaned to students since 1978.

Finance Minister Timothy Thahane told the Sunday Express the NMDS would use all possible measures to recover the millions the government pumps out every year to sponsor students at universities and colleges.

He did not have the figures at hand and said the NMDS was “busy digging up files” to compile a database of the defaulters.

However, for example, the majority of the National University of Lesotho (NUL)’s nearly 10 000 students receive government bursaries every semester.

Hundreds of other beneficiaries are studying in South Africa.

Students at colleges such as Lerotholi Polytechnic also get the grants.

“We have started looking into the files of people who have been sponsored since 1978 when the NMDS started giving loans to students,” Thahane said.

“We will compare the names with those of people who have started to pay back the money.”

He said legal action will be taken against those who fail to do so in the given time.

“We will track down those who have not yet paid and ask them to pay,” Thahane said.

“If they fail to do so we will then take measures to engage institutions that will intervene, be they the credit bureau or debt collectors.”

He said they are currently studying the 1999 files.

“We have looked at the files from 2000 to 2009 already,” he said.

Thahane said the government would approach private-sector employers of defaulting beneficiaries to consider stop-orders in respect of the student loans.

The finance minister warned in March when he presented his annual budget that the government would track down defaulting beneficiaries.

He threatened to cut down the number of beneficiaries saying the government could no longer afford to continue pumping out money when former bursary recipients were not paying back.

Bokang Lekau, the NMDS’s assistant bursary administrator, said the department had already started disseminating information about the impending measures.

The NMDS this week issued a newspaper advert warning former graduates who had received bursaries to service their loans lest they face legal action.

Lekau said the department decided to implement new recovery measures because beneficiaries were ignoring their contractual obligations with the NMDS.

He said even after meetings with civil servants and private sector employees, only a few of the beneficiaries had started paying back the loans.

Lekau said the department had already written letters to those who have not yet paid to report to the NMDS.

He said if they did not take action, the NMDS had organised to recover the monies through stop-order deductions from the concerned individuals’ salaries.

This will be done without their consent, he said.

“The NMDS has sent letters of demand to individual civil servants to pay back the loans they owe,” Lekau told the Sunday Express.

“This was after only a few came to pay back their loans following various meetings we had with them in their respective ministries.

“The response was so low the NMDS decided to further request people to come and pay.

“The NMDS decided that if people still fail to come their instalments will be deducted by stop-order without their consent.

“The contract the bursary recipients sign obligates the beneficiary’s “employer to deduct the loan from my salary after the completion or termination of my studies with effect from the first month of employment by equal monthly instalments to be paid to the loan bursary fund on my behalf”.

The NMDS will write letters to private-sector employers to deduct instalments from beneficiaries’ salaries every month until their loans are paid up.

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